Reverse Engineering

What Ajax Does Right

For this exercise, I chose this New Zealand advertizement for Ajax cleaning wipes, created by designer Tim O’Neill. I found that the design visually “flowed” well compared to many of the other options listed in the database where I searched for it, and thought it would be a good introductory piece to start off our exploration into what makes a good design! Also, please forgive the shakey lines… I am still getting used to photoshop and was struggling to get the line tool to cooperate, so I had to improvise.



In this version of the image, I’ve highlighted two things I thought were interesting examples of contrast: the use of color, and the use of negative space. I’ll talk about the color in more detail later, so for right now let’s focus on the negative space. The product is, of course, a cleaning product; so the artist did something very clever by putting a clean break right in the middle of the “juice spill”, to indicate that it’s been “wiped clean” in the act of pouring. That clean break in the middle of the pouring liquid is very eye-catching, and it immediately grabbed my attention! The fact that we have this very surreal but photorealistic image against such a plain background also makes the picture “pop” more, which seems to enhance the sense of contrast.



At first, the minimalistic look of this ad threw me for a loop as far as repetition was concerned. However, after closer inspection, I realized that the ad’s text was printed in the same font used for the “spray and wipe” portion of the product label. This ties the image to the product quite nicely, and brings the ad as a whole together.



Here, the text is aligned to the right, with no breaks (using changes in font size and weight to provide emphasis instead). This makes it easier to read (for me, at least), possibly because we’re used to reading right to left. The bottom and top halves of the “juice spill” are also aligned as if they were still a single stream, making the image more coherent, and the whole image is aligned in the center of the ad, making the clean “wipe” in the juice the focus.



Here, the text is closely grouped with the pictures of the product. This is presumably meant to establish the connection between the ideas presented in the text, and the product itself. It seems like a no-brainer, until you try to imagine it a different way and see how jarring that might be!



I mentioned that I liked the use of color here in the “contrast” section, and now I get to explain why. I like how generally muted the colors are, and how the magenta used for the juice is the strongest one: it makes the “wipe”, the focus of the image, stand out more. The contrast of the cool-colored background and the warm colors of the cup and juice also seem to enforce the theme of the ad, with the untextured teal gradient seeming to represent “clean”, and the warmer colors “dirty”. A very effective use of color!


Final Thoughts

It seems that the main strengths of this advertizement are color and contrast, meant to give the impression of the product’s effects. The fact that the design is so minimal works in its favor, using the simple image of a “wipe” in the still-pouring juice to show rather than tell. Simple, understated, and it gets the point across. A very effective use of design, I think!


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